Contract Award Protest

B-196218: Apr 29, 1980

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A firm protested the award of a contract for portable power distribution systems under a solicitation issued by the Defense General Supply Center. The basis of the protest was that the invitation for bids allegedly contained proprietary data belonging only to the protester. In appropriate circumstances, GAO will recommend the cancellation of a solicitation which wrongfully discloses a protester's proprietary data or trade secrets so long as no award has been made. However, the protester must present clear and convincing evidence that the procurement will violate the protester's proprietary rights. In the instant case, the protester's evidence was unconvincing as to the requisite elements to a claim of proprietary data or trade secrets. Furthermore, a comparison of the solicitation in question, and the earlier ones issued for the equipment, indicated many of the specification provisions contained in the recent procurement were also contained in prior solicitations which were a matter of public record. The value of proprietary information lies in its possession uniquely by the owner; once such information becomes public knowledge, its value and status as proprietary information are lost. Since GAO was unable to conclude that the protester's technical data contained protectable proprietary or trade secret information it was unnecessary to determine whether the procurement in fact used portions of the data in the solicitation. The protest was denied.